The Detroit Lions went into the draft knowing they needed to get a corner to learn from and eventually replace Rashean Mathis. On Friday night, they finally landed their man in the third round by selecting Stanford corner Alex Carter. Carter is the prototypical size at 6’0 and 196 lbs. His 40 inch vertical adds to that length which defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he loved about this player. After the Lions selected him, I looked back to see why they liked him the best out of all of the players available.
Alex Carter is a physical corner, who loves to tackle, routinely re-directs receivers at the line of scrimmage, and is patient in press coverage. He plays the ball physically, preferring to separate the receiver from the ball at the point of contact. He has decent instincts, and he played against NFL caliber receivers throughout his college career. Ultimately, Carter is at his best when the play is in front of him and he can react to it as opposed to being stuck on a man down field. That plays into the defense Teryl Austin built here last season. He preached that they needed to keep everything in front of them and not give up big plays. Carter almost sounds tailor made for Austin’s defense.
Some of the concerns about Carter are that he struggles against complex routes in man coverage. He is slow to react allowing separation on quick moves. He is not comfortable on deep routes and he lacks the top end speed desired of a corner in the NFL. It is likely that his lack of top end speed causes his lack of comfort on deep plays. Carter ran a 4.51 forty yard dash at the combine. Looking to improve on that time, he chose to run at his pro-day. Unfortunately for Carter, he clocked the exact same time at his pro-day as well, failing to improve even slightly.
While the Lions expect Carter to play corner opposite Darius Slay after Mathis retires, some wonder if Carter might be better suited as a safety. He certainly has the size, although could add a little more weight to his frame. He has safety speed as opposed to corner speed, and he is a physical tackler, much like a strong safety in Austin’s system would be. The Lions, though, have made it clear thus far that Alex Carter is a corner, and likely the future of the Detroit defense.